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Education Activities in Syria

The Foundation’s long-term goal is to enhance and promote the well-being and opportunities of children and their caregiversThe Foundation’s long-term goal is to enhance and promote the well-being and opportunities of children and their caregivers.The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is working with the Ministry of Education (MoE) at both local and national levels to support the education system. The Network’s activities encompass a variety of education initiatives from early childhood development to professional teacher development.

Introduction
The AKDN is working with Government and other civil society organizations to advance early childhood education programmes and English language instruction. AKDN is also engaged in policy discussions with the Government to establish private not-for-profit schools. In 2002, AKDN agencies began providing computer laboratories and training for use in 12 schools across Syria. In 2006, it inaugurated an English Language-ICT center in Salamieh.

Professional Development of Teachers
In 2003, the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) began working with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to improve English language instruction in Syria.

AKU-IED and the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) have developed a proposal for enhancing the capacity of MoE staff through a Masters of Education and certificate programmes.

AKU-IED has also been working with the MoE to enhance curriculum development and learning skills of teachers and English language inspectors. As of December 2005, 39 instructors have completed an eight- week Certificate programme in Karachi, Pakistan. This Certificate programme will enable English language inspectors and instructors to apply a variety of pedagogical approaches to meet students’ learning needs. Teachers are also sharing their knowledge and experience with colleagues and students to teach more effectively.

Although the Ministry of Education employs approximately 15,000 English teachers, 8,000-10,000 new teachers are needed to meet the growing demands of students. The Ministry will work with AKU-IED to train new teachers with the aim of creating "catalysts" within schools to improve the quality of education and English language instruction in Syria.

Early Childhood Development
Numerous studies have shown that a child’s formative years, from birth to eight years old, are critical for cognitive, physical, social, emotional and language development. Investing in the first years of life is key to developing children who are confident and creative learners, active problem-solvers and socially responsible members of society.

In 2003, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) started an Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme based upon these principles. AKF plans to build upon local strengths and identify critical gaps related to the care, development, and education of young children.

The Foundation’s long-term goal is to enhance and promote the well-being and opportunities of children and their caregivers. AKF plans to achieve this by facilitating the piloting and replication of different ECD approaches, raising awareness about ECD core concepts and encouraging the development of ECD networks, providing and supporting capacity building for local ECD stakeholders, and assisting in the review and development of ECD policies and legislation.

At the national level, AKF has played a facilitating role in the establishment of a national ECD Networking Group. As of 2005, 20 members from Government Ministries, international and national public and private organizations and donor agencies have become members of this networking group.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, the ECD Programme has provided input towards developing the first draft of a National ECD Strategy. In addition, the ECD Programme is providing technical assistance to the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs.

Another focus for the ECD Programme is the professional development of selected ECD supervisors, trainers and managers. Through a series of related training sessions and continuous follow-up, AKF has facilitated building skills and competency in the areas of management and supervision in early childhood programmes. Thirty kindergarten managers and supervisors working for the Women’s Federation and Ministry of Education have benefited from the training programme.

At the community level, AKF’s ECD Programme has conducted a needs assessment in a cluster of villages in the Salamieh District. The ECD Programme has selected the village of Taltout to initiate a pilot ECD community centre in collaboration with the Women’s Federation and the local community. The community centre, managed by an elected local committee, will provide services such as early child care and education, summer activities for children, parenting education and workshops for youth to ensure national reach and impact.

All ECD projects and activities will be monitored and evaluated regularly. Lessons learned and successful approaches will be shared and reviewed with the Ministry of Education and relevant stakeholders.

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